A Banana Republic?

Today on Twitter, Trump posted:

“Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” Peter Baker @nytimes The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”

I and a few thousand others reminded him that he is NOT a king, but some 60,000 people actually liked his post.  I wonder how much more we will tolerate …

More than a few times, I have made the claim that Trump is turning the U.S. into a ‘banana republic’, and it seems I’m not alone in this idea.  On Thursday, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote a column that I think sums the situation up quite well.

America, the Banana Republic

Feb. 13, 2020 at 5:55 p.m. EST

I covered South America for The Post from 1988 to 1992, a time when nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru were struggling to reestablish democratic norms after the long, dark night of military dictatorship. One of the biggest challenges was implanting something we take for granted in this country: public confidence that justice, for the most part, is blind and engages in an honest search for truth.

I never thought I’d be living in a country like that again. But thanks to President Trump and the inexcusable damage he is doing to our justice system, South America’s past has become America’s present.

There has been considerable hyperventilation, some perhaps by me, about the grave harm Trump is doing to our democratic institutions. I am not hyperventilating now. Public faith in justice is a delicate, precious thing. Once squandered, it is incredibly hard to regain.

That’s the kind of damage Trump is threatening with his outrageous and un-American attacks on the Justice Department and the federal judiciary for finding his cronies — including longtime political adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort — guilty of crimes and deserving of punishment. I know what the impact of this behavior is, because I’ve seen how it plays out before.

I lived in Argentina, where the president for much of my time there, Carlos Menem, was a populist norm-breaker who nepotistically involved his family in running the government and was widely viewed as corrupt. In 1991, Menem’s sister-in-law and appointments secretary, Amira Yoma, was indicted on money-laundering charges that involved suitcases full of cash allegedly being smuggled in and out of the country. Yoma’s ex-husband was head of the customs service at Ezeiza International Airport outside Buenos Aires, where he allegedly facilitated the cash-smuggling.

Menem was accused of secretly meeting with the prosecuting judge in charge of the Yoma case. The president initially denied having had such a meeting but ultimately admitted it, claiming it was about some unrelated matter. The judge’s secretary alleged that the judge had gone to the presidential residence, where she showed Menem secret prosecution documents about the Yoma case.

That judge was suddenly taken off the case, which was assigned to a different judge, and Yoma was eventually cleared of all charges. It is safe to say that few Argentines were surprised.

There simply was very little confidence in the ability of the justice system to discern truth from falsehood or to punish the powerful and well-connected. There was an understanding, moreover, that prosecutors and the court system could and sometimes would be used as political tools.

Years after leaving office, Menem was convicted on unrelated charges involving weapons smuggling and embezzlement. He maintained his innocence, claiming he was being persecuted by his political enemies.

In those fragile democracies I covered years ago, seeing justice be warped by politics had a corrosive effect on the larger society. A lack of confidence that court proceedings could — or even were intended to — arrive at truth encouraged the propagation and spread of conspiracy theories. Argentina still struggles to escape the widespread belief that unseen forces control events from deep in the shadows.

This is not the sort of path I ever thought the United States could take. Our justice system obviously has flaws, starting with the way it disproportionately punishes people of color. But it has not been naive, at least in my lifetime, to believe that federal prosecutors and judges tried their very best not to let politics influence their decisions — and that they generally succeeded because they took their responsibilities seriously.

When four assistant U.S. attorneys asked to be taken off the Stone case, they were sounding an alarm. We must all pay attention.

Their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison for his crimes was tough, but federal prosecutors tend to be tough. Stone was duly convicted in a court of law, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will decide his punishment. But when higher-ups in Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department overrule the prosecutors who handled the case on Stone’s recommended sentence; when Trump tries to delegitimize those prosecutors as “Angry Democrats” because they worked for former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and when Trump goes so far as to try to intimidate Jackson, a highly respected veteran federal judge — when such things happen, I have to wonder whether I’m back in Carlos Menem’s Argentina.

45 thoughts on “A Banana Republic?

  1. Hi there. I wanted to invite you to stop by my blog. I share stories from my book The Driveway Rules. These are my memoirs detailing what is has been like dealing with life and love while having undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. Hope to see you there!


  2. Jill, I just posted this comment on your following humor post. Let me repeat it here. It is not a joke that 1,100 former justice officials officials signed a letter asking for Barr’s resignation. Senators Graham, Grassley and McConnell, now why on earth would they do that? Stone is a self-described “dirty trickster” Think about that? He delights in cheating.

    The GOP missed their chance to save their party and our democracy with the impeachment trial with no witnesses, but they can still get it right. It is a truism that Trump is at his worst after he perceives or realizes a victory. If people think this corrupt and deceitful president will get better, they are deluding themselves. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, Stone is just as dirty as they come, and frankly I hope he spends the rest of his life in prison where he can’t do any more damage than he has already done. The GOP can still get it right, but I have little faith that they will. Seems to me they made their decision, sold their soul downriver, and are unlikely to change course now.


      • Jill, “60 Minutes” did a terrific report that directly questions the veracity of the president’s Ukraine narrative. The White House declined to participate, but I am sure the president will be tweeting away. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve found a captioned clip of the “60 Minutes” show and will watch it later tonight or else tomorrow. I haven’t seen the show in ages … I suppose Morley Safer and Mike Wallace are no longer on it? Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing it, but … we both know the truth anyway, and it isn’t what comes out of Trump’s mouth.


  3. I had missed this excellent column by the great Eugene Robinson, so I thank you, Jill.
    He is, I believe, an ongoing expert at MSNBC, where he appears on various programs. And unlike other talking heads, he invariably says things that are thoughtful and frequently profound.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure, Annie! Yes, that’s what Jeff told me … I must try to catch it every now and then. I almost never watch t.v., so I didn’t know. Robinson is definitely a wise man … I have shared his column a few times in the past.


      • He has his psycho ChristoTaliban preachers demanding a Civil War. If you were to go to many sites like Gab, Stormfront, etc? Or go to Fox News sites or Breibart? It would drive you insane with all the hateful rhetoric being thrown around by these Trumpanzees. Oh, they want a war alright. Now? They are saying if Trump is not re-elected? They will again? Start their Civil War.

        I say bring it the hell on. You mental midget morons been saying this since a real President, Barack Obama took his first oath of office. But then again? You got thousands of cases where these psychotic Trumpsters have done crimes of mass murder, murder, acts of terrorism, acts of assaults, violence, rape, etc. So these scum have already proven they do not care about the rule of law. You got his psychotic Proud Boys roaming the Northwest territory, Washington and Oregon and Idaho starting acts of terrorism. You got all those white supremacist groups behind Trump who do not care one bit about the rule of law.

        Well, should they do drop their micronuts and finally pop off like they been threatening to do? I say bring it the hell on, cause then? We will teach them another history lesson, like the ones they have so far failed to learn from the first Civil War, or WWI and WWII.


  4. Years ago, when I was younger, convicted people, guilty or not, were given sentences from 45 years to 10 consecutive lifetimes. Now those were HARSH PENALTIES! Seven to nine years, a cakewalk in MacArthur Park. Yet Trump wants to be even more lenient to his friend Roger the Dodger Stone. I know there is no such thing as justice in the world, but maybe it could at least be faked a bit.
    This case completely eliminates any idea justice is fair. If I weren’t so ashamed to admit it, I would say it’s just ice in the Antarctic Ocean.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Even years ago, when we were both younger, those harsh sentences were given to people like me and you, people without the financial means or power, people of colour or with disabilities. People who knew the right people, who had the wealth … they’ve always gotten off lighter. Justice is not blind, though we like to think it is, but rather it is blinded by wealth and power. Sigh. They say that Stone should be given a lighter sentence because of his age, yet he is younger than me or you, and as you say, 7-9 years is nothing, considering he threatened a witness with bodily harm, lied, cheated, and encouraged foreign collusion in order to rig an election. I say he should get 25-30 years!

      Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. Those who drafted our Constitutions believed in the decency of any who would hold office, and though they reckoned on some corruption, they did not see the pure ignorance and, at least in the case of Trump, evil that we are seeing today. Much has changed in the world in the past decade. I can’t speak for the UK, for I don’t know enough about how it works there, but here, that 35% – 40% would not be enough to allow this to happen EXCEPT … corrupt politicians have rigged the system. Hence, Trump lost the election by nearly 3 million votes, but still won the office. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

          • I so do as well. But until the opposition starts to focus on winning an election rather than on scoring points against team mates – then Trump has a free ride. I get the awful impression that too many Senior Democrats just assume Trump will implode and hand the election to them. That’s not going to happen.

            Liked by 1 person

            • You’ve hit the nail on the head … the in-fighting is detrimental and detracting from the end goal. People will quickly tire of it and I fear many will simply tune out between now and November. I think that because it is so obvious what a horrible president Trump is, how corrupt, many do just assume he cannot possibly win a second term, but it is a foolish assumption. Sigh.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. I would take issue with both you and Mr Robinson. Trump is not trying to make the US into a Banana Republic, he’s past that stage he’s going for a full Kingdom of old now full of serfs and other assorted peasants. From his position as King he looks out for maidens on whom he can exercise his power of Droit de seigneur which others call rape and appropriates all the wealth of the kingdom which he stacks up at one of his resorts in case he has to run,but also so he can run is fingers through it when he visits every other day.
    The King is Dead, Long Live the Kink

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Pingback: A Banana Republic? — Filosofa’s Word – Friggin' Doo-A!

  7. Eugene is awesome! He’s an excellent journalist and I love it when he’s on MSNBC. He speaks the truth, of course. Nearly half the country Jill, could care less. That’s even more frightening if you ask me.

    Liked by 3 people

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